12.14.2012

post your slow-cooker recipes and tips here

I just bought a slow-cooker, the first one I've owned. Do you use one? If so, what are your favourite things to make with it? Any tips or suggestions? I know there a zillion slow-cooker recipes online, but I'd like to hear what friends and readers like. Thanks!

34 comments:

M@ said...

My number one tip: brown or soften everything before you put it in. Brown beef, dredge chicken in flour and brown it, and chop up vegetables and let them cook in a frying pan until they start to soften.

Browning meat adds a heck of a lot of flavour, and also eliminates some of the little particles that can appear in the stew if you add raw meat. And softening the vegetables gives their flavours a head-start in marrying together. You don't have to do these steps, but they really improve the results. (For me the benefit is that I can cook later at night, when I have time, instead of when I get home from work, when I don't.)

Simplest recipe: a couple of cans of crushed tomatoes, half a can of water, a half onion and a couple of minced cloves of garlic softened together, some salt, pepper, basil, and oregano, and eight hours later you've got a kick-ass tomato sauce.

leftyinparadise said...

Split pea Soup (thick!)
Simple, simple, simple and luscious!
Buy a smoked ham hock or a smoked turkey wing. Get some yellow split peas (a typical bag will do, or if you buy in bulk, about 2 cups)
Spanish paprika- 2 teaspoons- Spanish specifically for flavour
1 medium onion
2 TBS oil
Turn the slow cooker on high setting, add oil and saute onions until caramelized (clear and coloured, keep stirring once in a while)
Add peas, hamhock and about 4-8 cups of water (depending on your slow cooker, and the amount of peas you use.)
I usually turn mine down to med-low and cook all day, but you could keep it high and it should be ready in 2-3 hours..
Add a healthy dash of paprika after putting in a bowl, stir it to mix in and enjoy...

laura k said...

I know what a difference browning makes with a dish like (eg) arroz con pollo. I've learned to be patient and really brown the chicken well (as opposed to a quick turn on each side) before baking with the other ingredients, and it's a big improvement.

For me the benefit will be (I hope) cooking in the morning when I have energy, and not at dinner time, when I don't.

Thanks for the tomato sauce recipe. Good to know! Though I should specify I'm looking for meal recipes.

laura k said...

I love pea soup! Thanks!

M@ said...

Well tomato sauce and pasta... it turns into a meal for me. But yes, the pasta is an extra dinner-time step.

(Btw, I know someone with a smoker who is happy to smoke ham hocks for use in pea soup. He may have a couple in his freezer right now. Just sayin'.)

laura k said...

Hmmm, someone with a smoker, you say...

The extra step at dinner is what kept me from buying the slow cooker. For example, I'd like to make chili, both vegetarian and with meat. Sounds perfect for slow cooker. But then we'll need to make rice at dinner time, so it seems to defeat the purpose.

But maybe not. Making rice (or pasta) is not difficult or time consuming, and can be done while you're doing other things, like relaxing with a cup of tea or glass of wine.

So... I guess we have to try it and see how we feel.

James Redekop said...

We're down in Miami right now, so we don't have acces to Lori's recipe library, but we'll dig some up whenwe're back!

laura k said...

Thank you, and bon voyage!

johngoldfine said...

I've had good luck with potato leek soup, sometimes eating it with a stock base right out of the cooker, but sometimes adding half & half near the finish.

Back when I was cooking for two meat-eaters, sauerbraten, pot roast, and corned beef, all with vegetables in the pot, could be eaten when we got home from work without further ado--though some sour cream in a tomato-based pot roast stock is always nice as are the classic Luchow's gingersnaps in the gravy just before serving the sauerbraten....

Unless you want to end up in dog-shaming.com, put that slow cooker far far from temptation.

:)

laura k said...

Everything sounds yummy. But what, no recipes?

Re dogs, ours are tall, too! Diego looks like a bear when he's on his hind legs. So yes, well back on the countertop.

johngoldfine said...

Recipes? Oh, you know, nearly everything in life starts with oil, garlic, onion, and celery. After that, a quick trip to google settles all bets, banishes all doubts, and illumines all wonders....

laura k said...

Oh well. No go.

I find Googling for recipes completely unsatisfying. Too many recipes, not enough trusted sources. I still prefer cookbooks, or if online, specific food writers.

I don't cook anything new without a recipe. I don't trust my skills enough - and more importantly, I don't want to waste time on trial and error. I want to know what works. I might tweak it on the 2nd or 3rd go, but for starters... I need a recipe.

johngoldfine said...

I haven't looked at a recipe since Jean's vintage Joy of Cooking was shredded by a puppy decades ago--but, of course, I'm not exactly a fountain of novelty here. We probably eat the same two dozen meals in rotation, year after year.

And, good god, after hearing that, why would you trust me as a recipe source?

:)

Honestly, I don't see how a slow cooker could ever fail to provide a decent outcome, whatever small variables there might be in ingredients or technique. Is Allan such a fussy eater?

laura k said...

Uh... this isn't about Allan.

I haven't used a slow cooker before, so I don't know what it does or doesn't do.

I know lots of people don't use recipes and don't see the point. And there are certainly many things I can cook without a recipe.

But for special dishes, or as I said, when I try something new, I like to have guidelines, especially for proportions, and when using ingredients that I might not think of on my own.

So ok, you are not a recipe source. I will move on! :)

(But I do hate Googling for recipes. Too much to wade through.)

M@ said...

Here's my beef stew:

- A pound of beef, dredged in flour, salt, and pepper, and browned well.

- A whole onion, diced.

- A couple of carrots, chopped.

- A couple of ribs of celery, chopped.

- A few mushrooms if I've got them, chopped.

These vegetables get sauteed in a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent. I throw in a couple of cloves of minced garlic at the end and cook that for about 30 seconds. Then I throw a quarter-cup of water in to loosen all the bits and get all into the crock pot.

Then I add:

- Half a cup of barley.

- A teaspoon or so of thyme.

- A good hit of black pepper.

I sometimes chop up a potato or two as well, but not always.

I just barely cover all this with water.

I've started thickening this as well with a slurry of flour and water, about two tablespoons of each, if I'm not using the barley for some reason.

Once I get home, I check the thickness (if it's too loose, I add a bit of flour and water to thicken it up, and turn the crock pot on high for fifteen minutes to cook out the floury taste.)

Then I check the flavour. Salt and pepper if it's bland, a bit of oregano or garlic if it's already got enough salt and pepper.

And voila! Stew! This is modifiable for chicken stew as well -- chicken pieces instead of beef, add a bit of sage and less thyme, or whatever you like with chicken (tarragon works too but it can be overdone).

Any questions? Wanna know how I do chili?

laura k said...

Stew! With barley! YUM!

Any questions?

OK to omit all flour?

Is that enough barley?

Wanna know how I do chili?

YES PLEASE

M@ said...

Omit the flour? Yes. It will be a bit thin is all. I like stews to have body but that's a personal preference.

More barley? Yes. But for the amounts I'm talking about, a quarter cup makes quite a bit of barley. A half cup makes for a lot of barley. I wouldn't want to see more than that.

Okay, chili.

- Brown the ground beef, drain it, and add to the crock.

- Add a can of crushed tomatoes. Half-fill the can with water partly to rinse it out, and partly to loosen up the tomatoes in the crock a bit.

- Drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add those. (I hate red kidney beans but theoretically those could be used too.)

- Finely dice half an onion, a rib of celery, and a carrot. Soften as usual, add the garlic, add to the crock.

- I get a can of ancho chilies every once in a while. It lasts a few months in the fridge. Ancho chilies in adobo sauce. One chili, minced, is enough to flavour the chili pretty well -- sometimes it only takes half a chili or it gets too spicy.

- On low for eight hours or so. Check for salt and pepper and you're done.

I'm not a huge fan of chili myself, to be honest, but I like the chili I make in the crock pot!

Next up: chicken cacciatore.

M@ said...

Okay, chicken cacciatore.

Onion, carrot, celery, garlic as per chili.

Can of crushed tomatoes, half a can of water. Alternatively, I use tomato passata, which is strained tomatoes and a lot less thick than the crushed ones. You may want to use a couple of cans of tomatoes here, or a can and a half.

You can use a whole chicken for this, or a package of chicken thighs, bone-in or boned. I always take the skin off -- some people are okay with the skin on but Mei and I usually don't like it much.

Dredge and brown the chicken as per usual. Add it to the crock pot.

Seasonings: a good tablespoon or so each of oregano and basil, or whatever else you like in your tomato sauce. And most importantly, a whole pod of star anise.

As usual, eight hours on low, check for salt and pepper, and you're done. Serve this one over egg noodles, pasta, or polenta. Even rice.

I sometimes use a whole chicken for this, or I use pieces. But chicken breasts tend to get dry in the crock pot, so my preference is chicken thighs.

M@ said...

Did my chili recipe comment not go through? We've had some spotty internet tonight, but I thought I sent it. Fortunately I copied all the text earlier so I can repost it here...

Omit the flour? Yes. It will be a bit thin is all. I like stews to have body but that's a personal preference.

More barley? Yes. But for the amounts I'm talking about, a quarter cup makes quite a bit of barley. A half cup makes for a lot of barley. I wouldn't want to see more than that.

Okay, chili.

- Brown the ground beef, drain it, and add to the crock.

- Add a can of crushed tomatoes. Half-fill the can with water partly to rinse it out, and partly to loosen up the tomatoes in the crock a bit.

- Drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add those. (I hate red kidney beans but theoretically those could be used too.)

- Finely dice half an onion, a rib of celery, and a carrot. Soften as usual, add the garlic, add to the crock.

- I get a can of ancho chilies every once in a while. It lasts a few months in the fridge. Ancho chilies in adobo sauce. One chili, minced, is enough to flavour the chili pretty well -- sometimes it only takes half a chili or it gets too spicy.

- On low for eight hours or so. Check for salt and pepper and you're done.

I'm not a huge fan of chili myself, to be honest, but I like the chili I make in the crock pot!

Next up: chicken cacciatore.

laura k said...

Good thing you copied it!

This is terrific. I like chicken cacciatore - and I used to make it really well - but haven't in a very long time.

White beans > red kidney beans. I agree.

I would probably like thicker stew, but sans flour it's a gluten-free meal, so I cook without it.

Barley proportions duly noted.

I like certain kinds of chili. This will give me a base to start with.

This is exciting. Thank you!

(Spotty internet must be going around tonight. Good thing I copied this...)

M@ said...

Forgot about the gluten-free stuff. I imagine you could use another thickener -- one trick my mother used to use is to grate a potato into soup to give it body, I bet you could do that, for starters. And browning the meat, of course you can omit the flour.

Another thing I wanted to note... I've got a couple of crock pot cookbooks (one that was a wedding gift for my mom from her sister, which is kind of fun to have).

What I've found is that crock pot recipes are all the same. Dice and soften vegetables. Brown meat. Add liquid (tomatoes, water), starch (beans, barley, potatoes), and seasonings. Cook for four hours on high or eight hours on low.

Of course there are exceptions (crock pot lasagna, for example) and some outliers (pulled pork is basically a chunk of pork shoulder with BBQ sauce and apple juice). But anything that's a stew or a soup is pretty much the same in every recipe, with only slight adjustments to the flavours involved.

I'm thinking that with a handful or recipes, you can keep your crock pot full for a long time. (Oh, and we'll talk about pork hocks too... :) )

laura k said...

We're not entirely gluten-free anymore (say hello to frozen pizza, and the occasional foccacia sandwich from Whole Foods) but I do cook gluten-free. And I guess the thickness of the stew is not overly important to me. If it's more like a hearty soup than a thick stew, that's fine.

I know what you're saying re crock pot cooking, even just from looking at recipes online. This will give me the basics to get going, then I can work from there.

laura k said...

johngoldfine, maybe instead of using the word recipe, I should have said, "When you make leek and potato soup, what do you do?"

I know M@ (like you, and like me once I know how to make something) doesn't use a recipe. But he tells me what he does... and then I have a recipe.

johngoldfine said...

I used to grow leeks, but they're bothersome and not enough better than the storebought to justify the trouble.

So, first I buy some leeks and give them a quick rinse.

Then I pull down a kitchen towel, place one piece of dog kibble on my cutting board, wait for Boca to position herself to my left, and make a big sweep from right to left to dump all crumbs on the floor. Boca snaps up the unconsidered trifle without any other dogs being the wiser, and another secret tradition is upheld.

Then I lop the roots and back to the sink to clean the hell out of the stems. I get my lovely Global G-2 8 inch Chef's Knife, much nicer than the classic European chef's knife, and chop them into leek rings. Toss them in the crockpot.

The carrots, onions, and potatoes are in the pantry but before I can reach them, I have to weave through the mudroom dodging cabbages, trashbags, bags of cans, bags of bottles, bags of bags, a rifle, boots, etc etc. (Of course if it's late July or August, I'll just go out in the garden, snag an onion, a carrot, a handful of parsley, and spade up some potatoes.)

What color should the soup be? I have purple potatoes, red potatoes, yellow potatoes, and white potatoes. Decisions are made. Back to the kitchen.

Everything gets a scrubbing.

I grab some of last summer's garlic hanging in a net bag near the stove and piece of celery from the fridge. Back to my cutting board. Boca is alert and wondering if I oughtn't to sweep some crumbs again but knows in her heart of hearts that we only do that trick once per meal prep. But she keeps an eye on me anyway while I go to work chop chop chopping. Mincing really. I give the onions, garlic, celery a bit of a fry, then dump them in the crockpot, along with the chopped potatoes, carrots, and anything else on the cutting board I may have forgotten to mention.

If I have garden parsley, that goes in. If I have some fresh horseradish root from the garden, I might add a bit of that. If there were mushrooms in the fridge, some of them found their way into the frying pan and so into the pot.

Then some vegetable stock I've been saving, usually mostly spinach water. Back in the day before Jean went vegetarian, I'd have used chicken stock.

Put the pot in the mudroom where only a dog who tunnels through doors can get to it. Turn it on low, check on it in eight hours...

...when I'll bring it back to the kitchen, add some half and half, mash it all up with a long handled-potato masher, and finally throw in some kosher salt. (Jean does not do pepper.)

I've probably forgotten something important, but, trust me, Boca never lets me forget her piece of kibble.

laura k said...

Well. Thanks. I'm not sure how much of this level of detail is a sarcastic rebuke to me for asking more than once, but thanks all the same.

johngoldfine said...

Aw, I wouldn't put that much time into sarcasm, Laura! A rebuke would have been a short sharp salutary shock! In fact, I was flattered that you were jonesing so bad for my potato leek soup!

I put the detail in because I've just finished a semester when, as usual, I've said to students one hundred thousand times: don't write instructions and make any process, however ordinary, yours in its detail and observation, inevitably and inescapably a piece only unique old you could possibly have penned.

laura k said...

Well then, a more hearty and soupy thank you! :)

I love potato and leek soup, I have no idea how to make it. Or, I had no idea, now I do.

See, it doesn't matter if the cook uses a recipe. If the cook wants to share how to make something with someone who doesn't know how to make said thing, some type of instructions are called for.

Dharma Seeker said...

The timing of this post is amazing because I also just bought my first slow cooker last week! I devoured the comments (selfishly) hoping to find some vegetarian recipes. I'll just have to try some different things out and come back and post them if I find a great recipe or two for vegetarian chilli or stew :)

laura k said...

Ha, too funny! I love vegetarian chili. There are far too many recipes for it online, I need someone to point me to a good (non-spicy) one. I also love anything with black beans, so a black bean-style chili would be great, too.

As a general, non-vegetarian update, M@'s beef & barley stew was delish. It was great knowing dinner was being made while we were giving the dogs baths then recuperating fro that.

Next up, chicken thighs will be cacciatore'd.

laura k said...

And enjoy your slow-cooker, D/S! :)

laura k said...

Two weeks ago I made M@'s beef & barley stew and chicken cacciatore. Both were ok, but now that I'm a little more familiar with this method, I've made a few adjustments - not to M@'s guidelines, to my technique.

So I've just plugged in a double-batch of beef-barley stew, one meal for tonight and one to freeze for next week.

I chopped the vegetables in larger pieces and softened them in the skillet for less time. The first time, I think I was treating it like soup, not stew - veggies too small and too soft. I'm expecting much better results this time, hence the double batch.

M@ said...

That's great that you have zeroed in on better ways to do these things! Your adjustments will definitely improve things, I'm sure. And I'll be keeping them in mind next time I give advice on slow cooking -- there are so many things I do without thinking, I guess, when it comes to cooking.

Hope the current batch of stew is great!

laura k said...

there are so many things I do without thinking, I guess, when it comes to cooking.

That goes for anything we do a lot of, I think. I re-learn that lesson again and again.

laura k said...

Today I made what I think is yummy vegetarian chili. It was super easy to make. I looked at a lot of veggie chili recipes online, none looked exactly what I wanted, so I combined elements of a few. I was skeptical about using canned beans in the slow cooker, but it worked beautifully.

1 can (19 oz) each of:
chick peas
black beans
white beans
corn niblets
diced tomatoes

chopped:
onion
garlic
bell pepper

Soften onion, garlic and peper in olive oil.

Rinse/drain all beans and corn.

Add everything to cooker. Plus 1 Tablespoon each of oregano, basil, chipotle; 1 teaspoon cumin; 1/2 or 1 teaspoon cayenne.

This turned out to be a little spicier than I wanted, but obviously that's adjusted to taste.

Cook 4 hours on high or 6-8 on low.

Serve with tortilla chips, yogurt/sour cream, and/or good bread.